Sonic Drive-In, the popular fast food chain known for its drive-in format and extensive drink menu, has historically not offered non-dairy ice cream options. However, with the rise in popularity of plant-based diets and dairy-free lifestyles, many customers have been requesting non-dairy dessert options from Sonic.
In this article, we will explore the following key questions about non-dairy ice cream at Sonic Drive-In:
- Does Sonic sell non-dairy ice cream currently?
- Has Sonic ever sold non-dairy ice cream options in the past?
- What are some of the most popular non-dairy ice cream flavors and brands that Sonic could offer?
- Is it likely that Sonic will add non-dairy ice cream to their menu in the future?
- What would be the benefits and drawbacks of Sonic offering non-dairy ice cream options?
Does Sonic Currently Sell Non-Dairy Ice Cream?
As of November 2023, Sonic Drive-In locations do not currently offer any non-dairy ice cream menu options. Sonic’s ice cream and Frozen Cream Treats menu consists entirely of traditional, dairy-based products like shakes, malts, sundaes, and cones made with soft serve ice cream. There are no vegan, dairy-free, or plant-based ice cream alternatives available.
When checking Sonic’s official website and current menus for stores across the United States, there is no mention of non-dairy ice cream being sold. The ingredients lists for all Sonic frozen treats only show dairy ingredients like milk, cream, whey, and milk proteins. Those with dairy allergies or vegan diets do not have ice cream options at Sonic at this time.
Has Sonic Ever Sold Non-Dairy Ice Cream in the Past?
There are no indications that Sonic Drive-In locations have ever offered non-dairy ice cream options on their menus in the past. Since the first Sonic Drive-In opened in 1953, traditional ice cream made with dairy has been a major part of their concept and brand. Their ice cream offerings have expanded over the decades to include sundaes, shakes, cones, and a variety of flavors, but always made with dairy milk and cream.
Sonic has innovated with additions like Mix-Ins and Real Ice Cream shakes, but these still use dairy ingredients. Searches online reveal no evidence of vegan or dairy-free ice cream ever being sold at Sonic. It seems the idea of non-dairy ice cream on the Sonic menu is a very recent request likely driven by consumer dietary shifts toward plant-based options.
Lack of Past Precedent for Non-Dairy Items on Menu
The lack of any precedent for selling non-dairy ice cream also indicates it may be unlikely for Sonic to offer it anytime soon. Sonic’s menu has been centered around classic diner and drive-in fare since the chain began nearly 70 years ago. While they have added options and limited-time offers over the decades, dramatic shifts away from their core ice cream, burgers, dogs, and fries have been minimal.
Customer interest in non-dairy ice cream would represent a major departure from the norm for Sonic. The chain has stuck to its roots for nearly a century, suggesting substantial menu changes like vegan ice cream could meet resistance or uncertainty internally. With no history of making such major additions, Sonic may err on the side of caution when it comes to non-dairy ice cream.
Possible Exceptions and Trials
However, Sonic has occasionally dabbled in greater menu experimentation that could indicate possibilities for non-dairy ice cream down the road. For example, Sonic has added options like bone-in chicken wings, baked potatoes, wraps, and popcorn shrimp to the menu for limited times. These sort of additions show a willingness to try new things, even if they usually stick to core menu classics in the long run.
Sonic also sometimes does location-specific trials of innovative items, like testing a new vegan burger patty made with Beyond Meat in LA in 2020. So it’s within reason that Sonic could potentially test non-dairy ice creams at select locations someday to gauge customer interest before considering a wider launch.
What Non-Dairy Ice Cream Flavors Could Sonic Offer?
If Sonic Drive-In ever decides to add non-dairy ice cream to their lineup, there are many popular flavors and brands they could choose from to appeal to dairy-free consumers’ tastes:
Coconut milk ice cream has become very popular as a dairy-free option with a creamy, tropical flavor. Top coconut milk ice cream brands Sonic could offer include:
- So Delicious
- Coconut Bliss
- Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss
- Nada Moo
Flavors like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, mint chip, butter pecan, and cookies & cream made with coconut milk would give diners seeking non-dairy plenty of flavors to enjoy.
For those who prefer the flavor and texture of almond milk ice cream, Sonic could offer options like:
- So Delicious Almond Milk
- Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy (almond milk base)
- Alden’s Organic Almond Milk
Classic chocolate and vanilla made with almond milk would be simple flavors to start with. Toffee, coffee, and strawberry almond milk ice creams also pair well with many of Sonic’s sundae, shake, and cone options.
Oat milk ice cream has risen in popularity recently for its rich consistency and allergy-friendly appeal. Oat-based ice cream brands Sonic could offer include:
- Planet Oat
- Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Oat milk’s natural sweetness lends itself well to flavors like vanilla, chocolate, mocha, and fruity options like strawberry and lemon sorbet if Sonic wanted to branch beyond traditional ice cream.
For those who want non-dairy ice cream with a high protein content, soy milk-based options would be an excellent choice. Soy milk ice creams Sonic could sell include:
- So Delicious Soy Milk
- Sweet Soya
Classic vanilla and chocolate soy milk ice creams are popular choices that would complement Sonic’s current menu. Peanut butter, cookies & cream, mint, and coffee soy milk ice creams are also widely enjoyed.
|Non-Dairy Ice Cream Base||Brand Examples||Flavor Options|
|Coconut Milk||So Delicious, Luna & Larry’s, Coconut Bliss, Nada Moo||Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan, cookies & cream|
|Almond Milk||So Delicious, Ben & Jerry’s, Alden’s Organic||Vanilla, chocolate, toffee, coffee, strawberry|
|Oat Milk||Oatly, Planet Oat, Jeni’s||Vanilla, chocolate, mocha, strawberry, lemon|
|Soy Milk||So Delicious, Tofutti, Sweet Soya||Vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter, cookies & cream, mint|
This table summarizes some of the most popular non-dairy ice cream bases along with brand examples and flavor options that each base pairs well with. Sonic has a wide variety of dairy-free ice creams to potentially choose from if they decide to add non-dairy options to their menu.
Is Sonic Likely to Add Non-Dairy Ice Cream to Their Menu?
While Sonic has not yet indicated any specific plans to expand into non-dairy ice creams, the rising consumer demand makes it a distinct possibility in the future. A few factors that could motivate Sonic to eventually add dairy-free options include:
Growing Plant-Based Market
The plant-based food market has grown rapidly in recent years, with more consumers seeking vegetarian, vegan, and dairy-free options from restaurants. Mintel reports non-dairy ice cream sales jumped from $412 million in 2015 to $694 million in 2020 in the U.S. alone. As demand increases, Sonic may see a need to cater to changing tastes.
Competitor chains like Dairy Queen, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Starbucks have added non-dairy selections, including ice cream options. As consumers come to expect dairy-free choices at mainstream chains, Sonic may feel pressure to follow suit to stay competitive.
Sonic does listen to customer feedback and makes changes based on guest suggestions or complaints at times. With enough requests via email campaigns, social media, and letters, Sonic could be swayed to test non-dairy ice cream offerings.
Greater Product Variety
Expanding into non-dairy ice creams allows Sonic to diversify their product lineup, reach new customers, and generate more sales. It also helps modernize their brand image as being inclusive of contemporary dietary preferences. Offering more selection while catering to changing tastes could make the addition of dairy-free ice cream attractive.
While Sonic has stuck to traditional ice cream products so far, these factors suggest they have compelling reasons to consider plant-based options in the future. It may take sustained customer pressure to prompt this kind of menu shift, but recent trends make dairy-free likely just a matter of time for Sonic.
What Would Be the Benefits and Drawbacks of Non-Dairy Ice Cream for Sonic?
Adding plant-based ice cream products could offer Sonic several benefits but also has drawbacks management would need to weigh:
- Attract New Customers – Dairy-free options would draw those avoiding milk products for health or ethical reasons.
- Meet Shifting Demand – This caters to rising plant-based and flexitarian consumer demands.
- Modernize Brand Image – Non-dairy items make Sonic appear inclusive of contemporary values and diets.
- Competitive Edge – This could differentiate Sonic from rivals lacking dairy-free dessert choices.
- Higher Margins – Non-dairy ice creams typically cost more, increasing sales and profitability.
- Menu Complexity – Adding non-dairy flavors complicates kitchen logistics and ordering.
- Supply Chain Challenges – Sourcing specialty ingredients may be difficult compared to existing dairy supply pipeline.
- Lower Demand – Without proper promotion, non-dairy items may not sell enough to justify the costs.
- Time Investment – R&D, testing, marketing require significant labor, diverting focus from core items.
- Weakens Brand Identity – Shifting away from signature traditional ice cream offerings dilutes what makes Sonic unique.
Ultimately, Sonic would need to decide if potential sales growth and new customer acquisition outweigh the operational and branding risks. While going dairy-free poses some challenges, the market trends suggest potential benefits could make it a worthwhile move for Sonic Drive-In.
At this time in late 2022, Sonic Drive-In does not offer any non-dairy ice cream options for vegan or dairy-free diners. The brand has never previously sold plant-based ice cream, keeping frozen treats centered on traditional soft serve made with dairy milk and cream. However, the rising consumer demand for non-dairy products could motivate Sonic to expand into ice cream alternatives like coconut, almond, oat, and soy-based in the coming years.
Popular dairy-free ice cream brands like So Delicious, Oatly, NadaMoo, and Ben and Jerry’s offer flavors that would pair well with Sonic’s shake, sundae, and cone offerings. While logistical and branding hurdles exist, the growing non-dairy market presents Sonic with an opportunity to satisfy changing customer preferences and gain an edge over competitors. With sustainability and inclusion being ever more important brand values, the addition of vegan ice cream seems a likely step for Sonic sooner or later.